Punch: Episode 9
So far, Punch has managed to up its own ante without fail each week, and not only meets the sometimes insanely difficult challenges it creates for itself, it actually exceeds them. If that sounds like high praise, that’s because it is, and because there’s no reason to hide one’s feelings for a show that’s as unabashedly brilliant and self-assured as this is. There’s a real heart and soul within Punch—the only problem being that the more it shows it, the sadder reality becomes. It was so much easier when Jung-hwan was a douche, wasn’t it?
SONG OF THE DAY
Hwayobi – “그사람 (That Person)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Using the EMTs arriving on the scene from her bogus call, Ha-kyung and her team gain entrance into Tae-joon’s vacation home. They don’t have a warrant, but claim to be acting on an anonymous tip that Tae-joon is hiding the enlistment broker inside.
He plays it cool of course, but hides a memory card belonging to a suspiciously placed video camera nearby. Ha-kyung notices the tea setting for two, coinciding with evidence that another car had been parked outside, even though no other evidence of a guest can be found.
She goes ahead and pours herself tea meant for the invisible broker, locking eyes with Tae-joon as she takes a meaningful sip.
We rewind a bit to Jung-hwan’s confrontation with Minister Yoon, where she boldly claims that she’ll take responsibility for her actions by removing the poisonous Tae-joon from power.
But her promises of eventual justice aren’t enough to sway Jung-hwan, who looks her straight in the eye as he vows to put her in prison before his time on this earth is done.
Turns out that Ha-kyung’s tea-drinking wasn’t just for fun, since she was checking its temperature to get a timeline on how long the broker’s been gone. It was still warm, so she knows he can’t have left the island yet.
Tae-joon knows she’s headed for the airport, and tries beating her to the punch (har) by getting the broker on a departing plane. Ha-kyung calls upon Prosecutor Jung to do whatever it takes to make sure that plane doesn’t leave the runway.
He does, but his order is superseded by Minister Yoon’s, whose office he goes barging into to demand answers. How could she let the enlistment fraud broker get away?
Minister Yoon cites the law as her reason, specifically the part about being innocent until proven guilty, since they had no proof that man was a broker. She’s not fooling anyone, especially Prosecutor Jung, who asks, “Who are you?”
He answers for her: “You are who you are because of Prosecutor General Lee Tae-joon.” As he forces her to face the duality of her nature, Minister Yoon looks at herself in the mirror, which makes this one hell of a well-shot scene.
“You’ve become a monster to catch a monster,” he finally adds, and Minister Yoon sees her reflection in the mirror morph into Tae-joon with dawning horror. But she shakes it off just as fast as she asserts that she’s different from Tae-joon, and she’ll prove it.
But as to Prosecutor Jung’s vow to get the plane back, she’s swift to cite the penalties for using one’s power to do so—almost as if she forgot that she committed that crime to the letter just a short while ago.
Ha-kyung arrives at the airport just minutes too late, unable to do anything but watch the plane carrying the broker disappear into the sky.
Tae-joon finds himself surprised by Minister Yoon when she proposes that Chairman Kim use pneumonia as an excuse to get bailed out of prison. Since this was how he got out before, Tae-joon stresses that the media wouldn’t take it lightly, though Yoon parrots back words of wisdom he once told her: Either you control the media, or suppress it.
As for their fellow prosecutors who’ll be watching, Minister Yoon claims she’ll look the other way and force them to do the same. “I only asked you to row with an oar, but you’ve raised the sails for me too,” Tae-joon marvels.
Minister Yoon says she just wants off their love boat as soon as possible, prompting Tae-joon to carry the ship metaphor further when he tells her that only he can decide when she can abandon ship, if ever.
Jung-hwan watches the news reports on Chairman Kim’s sudden and debilitating case of pneumonia before switching to Minister Yoon’s speech at a ceremony commissioning new prosecutors into the fold. Of course it’s full of self-righteous blather that she doesn’t adhere to herself.
In an effort to turn Yeon-jin against Jung-hwan, Kang-jae tells her about his tumor in a way that makes it seem like Jung-hwan betrayed her and/or never cared about her enough to mention it. He wants her to report all Jung-hwan’s activities straight to him now.
Jung-hwan can see into their office and know something’s up, though he acts like nothing’s changed when he calls Yeon-jin for a favor. Will she do it?
Tae-joon alludes to a possible deal for Chairman Kim’s freedom—all he has to do is hand over Ocean Capital. Of course, the aging chaebol doesn’t want to give up such an expensive asset, even though Tae-joon claims that it’s his and his brother’s company more than his. Plus, it’s Tae-sub’s on paper.
By the way Tae-joon makes it sound, Chairman Kim doesn’t have much of a choice. He’ll go ahead and write down Kim’s donation for one Ocean Capital for his brother’s funeral expenses.
Ha-kyung meets with Prosecutor Jung to figure out a way to take Tae-joon down, knowing that he would take Minister Yoon down with him and do their work for them. The key is still in getting Chairman Kim to talk, which they’ll do by revoking his sick bail and getting him into the interrogation room.
However, her and Jung-hwan don’t seem to be on the same page, since Yeon-jin gets him five minutes of alone time with the chairman through one of her hospital connections. But Jung-hwan’s callousness and lack of gratitude makes her think back to Kang-jae’s offer.
Knowing that Tae-joon already made his offer to Chairman Kim, Jung-hwan makes a counteroffer: in exchange for Chairman Kim giving him the exact details of the bribes he made to pave the way for Tae-joon’s nomination, he’ll give Kim Ocean Capital.
When asked how he’d accomplish that, Jung-hwan says he’ll get Tae-joon to publicly admit that his brother was CEO in name only, and that Chairman Kim is the true owner. He seems confident that Kim will take his offer over Tae-joon’s threat.
Back at the office, Yeon-jin pesters Jung-hwan for exact details regarding his impossible plan to get Tae-joon to disavow ownership of Ocean Capital, to which Jung-hwan points to her pocket and replies that he’ll tell her… but shouldn’t she make sure her recording is working first?
Busted. Yeon-jin casts her eyes downward as she removes her phone from her pocket, which was being used to record him. After she stops the recording, she goes into her sad life story, with her father being a prominent politician and her mother being a lowly mistress.
Jung-hwan says that hers is a common story, to which she replies that a man dying from a brain tumor is also common. Ouch. But her need to ally herself with the winning side stems from her desire to overtake her father in the next general election.
Since Jung-hwan dying would set her plan back, she says she can no longer help him. “I don’t need your help,” Jung-hwan replies honestly. “I’m giving you a chance.” He’ll let her be the one to handcuff Minister Yoon and Tae-joon, and let her do the final briefing—all of which would put her front and center in the public eye.
It’d only be good press for her, since she’d be known as the prosecutor who brought down two corrupted officials, but Yeon-jin argues that there’s still a chance his plan might fail. And if it does, she won’t hesitate to go to Kang-jae.
Jung-hwan can’t begrudge her for that, since he’d probably have done the same in her shoes. But he doesn’t let her get sentimental about his imminent passing, reminding her instead of the work ahead.
While Tae-joon receives a tax reduction proposal in the event he gets Ocean Capital, Jung-hwan hands Ha-kyung a list of the company’s major shareholders and the money they’ve each invested.
Ha-kyung sighs that the list is like picking fruit from a poisoned tree, since illegally-obtained evidence is useless to them in court. Jung-hwan could care less about that, more upset that he’s not powerful enough to have been able to stop the broker’s plane. Among other things.
He also has to remind her that the legal timeline she’s working off of could take months he doesn’t have. She may have fifty years left to live, but, “A year to you is a day to me.” Aw.
Jung-hwan is touched when Ha-kyung gives him two months’ worth of a pain-relieving tea, and tells her to target Tae-sub’s wife, who’s a major shareholder in Ocean Capital with a long list of tax evasions Ha-kyung can target. Which she’ll do legally, of course.
She orders the immediate arrest of Tae-sub’s wife, which leaves Tae-joon one step behind, since Ha-kyung already has his sister-in-law in the interrogation room before he finds out. And he is PISSED.
Unfortunately for him, he can’t use muscle to get his brother’s wife out when Prosecutor Jung has all but fortified the entrance. And with Ha-kyung pressuring the woman with all the evidence Jung-hwan compiled, it’s only a matter of time before she talks.
They all know that, which is why Jung-hwan gives Tae-joon a ready-made speech for a press conference he’ll have to schedule that day. In it, he’ll say that his brother was Ocean Capital’s owner in name only, same for his family members.
“If my brother wasn’t around, Chairman Kim wouldn’t have existed,” Tae-joon argues. Jung-hwan: “If I wasn’t around, you wouldn’t have existed.” BOOM. Gavel dropped.
Jung-hwan doesn’t even blink at Tae-joon’s violent outburst, and simply tells him that an arrest warrant will be issued for Tae-sub’s wife if he doesn’t show up to the press conference. Does Jung-hwan think he, as the prosecutor general, won’t be able to get his sister-in-law out?
But Jung-hwan thinks back to Tae-joon tauntingly telling him that life won’t go the way he planned, and parrots that back to him now that the shoe’s on the other foot.
Tae-joon’s first instinct is to silence the media before they can utter a word, but he’s too late—his sister-in-law’s financial crimes are already all over the news. And with it, his late brother’s. All thanks to Yeon-jin and Jung-hwan.
His second instinct is to call his good friend/director of the National Tax Service, who owes him a few favors. He asks for them now to stop any more tax documents from leaking, only for the director to hand the phone over…
From the other end of the line, Tae-joon hears: “This is Park Jung-hwan.” Snaaaap. One step ahead of him again! “You have thirty minutes until the conference,” Jung-hwan adds. Click.
Tae-joon refuses to go into battle empty-handed, and devises a way to clear a path so that he can get his sister-in-law out—since Prosecutor Jung is the one blocking the way, he orders Kang-jae to get Minister Yoon to fire him immediately. Oh no.
When Tae-joon first enters the conference room, he owns it like there’s nothing wrong. But his ace in the hole fails him when Kang-jae reports that Minister Yoon has been hospitalized for exhaustion, and he can’t reach her.
Even more devastating is that Tae-sub’s children are being investigated, since their names were used to invest billions of won. When their mother was arrested, Tae-joon told them that he’d act as their father and make sure that not even a speck of dirt would touch them.
That promise officially broken now, Tae-joon sends a death glare Jung-hwan’s way. You can bet that if cameras weren’t around, he’d have gone for his throat.
Tae-joon has no choice but to say what Jung-hwan wanted, which is that his brother was owner of Ocean Capital in name only. Chairman Kim watches the broadcast with a satisfied smile and calls Jung-hwan to tell him that he’ll give him what he asked for tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly, Minister Yoon’s hospitalization was just a ploy to give her easier access to Chairman Kim. She jumps out of bed when Ho-sung tells her that the guards outside his room are gone, though he reminds her that he’s not doing this for her, but for the good of the prosecutor’s office.
She asks Chairman Kim to give her material with which to trap Tae-joon, and when he won’t do it for free, she offers him something only she can procure—a lawful presidential pardon for his crimes. He takes it.
Remember that fifty dollar gift Ye-rin wanted for her graduation? She wouldn’t tell her father what it was, but doesn’t have to—he breaks it to her that he already found out, causing the two of them to smile conspiratorially when Ha-kyung asks what it is.
It’s only when the three of them are at the mall that little Ye-rin reveals that her friends accidentally broke her mom’s favorite pair of sunglasses. So she wanted to get the same pair as her graduation gift and replace them, which, awwww. So cute.
Of course Ha-kyung can’t be mad at her, and sends her off to buy something for herself. That’s when Jung-hwan gives her a wrapped present containing a new and expensive pair of sunglasses to replace the cheap broken ones he’d given her a decade ago.
She demurs because of the cost, but he convinces her by saying that he’ll drink the tea she gave him and try his best to hold on a little longer. In return, she can see the world through his gift.
The moment is touching and romantic, at least until Jung-hwan brings Ha-kyung back to earth by telling her that he’s trying to give Ocean Capital to Chairman Kim.
In shock, she asks if he made a deal with the chairman. His response: “Everything’s a deal, Ha-kyung.” But deals can be broken, as he finds out when Chairman Kim cancels their agreed-upon meeting because Minister Yoon outbid him.
Now that Minister Yoon has the upper hand on Tae-joon, she gets to pick the restaurant, which means her days of pretending to like skate fish are over.
It’s a confession for a confession—the recording Minister Yoon took of Chairman Kim, and the recording Tae-joon took of the broker. She transfers both recordings to two indestructible chips created by the National Intelligence Service which makes removing the files impossible.
The safeguard in both of them possessing a chip is in the promise of mutually assured destruction—if one of them leaks the contents, they’ll both be going to jail.
Minister Yoon asks him to replace half of the current chief prosecutors, which will help her reform the office even if she still has to put up with him. He acquiesces reluctantly, but makes one thing clear: Next time, he’ll pick the restaurant.
Jung-hwan wakes from a horrifying nightmare of Minister Yoon and Tae-joon laughing at his funeral. He tears another page off his wall calendar, reminded that it’s one day less he has to live.
Yeon-jin may think that their investigation is useless now that Chairman Kim is soon to be pardoned, but Jung-hwan knows money is what’s most important to Kim (contrasted with time being most important to him) and plans to exploit that. The auction isn’t over yet.
While the president is viewing Chairman Kim’s pardoning favorably, there’s still an issue with the very public investigation of Ocean Capital. Minister Yoon asks that the case be handed over to an independent counsel decided upon by the National Assembly, thus taking it out of their hands.
Her main reason for the move—as she later reveals to Tae-joon—is that the case would outlast Jung-hwan, since everything takes foreeeever in the National Assembly. “Time is on our side,” she says.
“‘Our?’” Tae-joon asks excitedly. “It took us thirty years to become a team!” As for Jung-hwan, Tae-joon promises to make sure he’ll be unable to interfere. I love how happy he is to say “we” and “us” now.
Tae-joon springs a trap to gain an audience with Jung-hwan as a way of paying him back for messing with him. If he didn’t know before that Tae-joon released news of his brain tumor to the press, he finds out when Tae-joon and Kang-jae start taunting him about it.
“Who would gather around a campfire that’s about to burn out?” Tae-joon half-jokes, referring to Jung-hwan’s impending doom. “Yeon-jin, aren’t you cold over there?” She fires back that she’s fine with the flame still burning in Jung-hwan.
This time, it’s Tae-joon who’s one step ahead of him, since he’s blocked every perceivable move Jung-hwan could make to turn the independent counsel development in his favor.
Tae-joon can’t help but gloat over his victory before adding that he’ll give Jung-hwan the silly title of Prosecutor of the Month just so he can piss away his few remaining days. Jung-hwan should be grateful for his magnanimousness.
It’s then that Jung-hwan gets up to leave, and wishes his former friend to have a long and healthy life…
“…In prison,” he finishes. Tae-joon and Kang-jae devolve into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
At least Jung-hwan finally catches a break in the form of an old lecture video where Chairman Kim had claimed ownership of Ocean Capital—it’s not perfect, but it’s something.
Unfortunately it won’t be enough to blackmail Chairman Kim into a deal, because they can’t trump the promise Minister Yoon made to pardon him. And if they just let the case go to the National Assembly Yoon’s way, it could take months.
But if he takes the video file to them and spills everything regarding his involvement with Ocean Capital, then he’ll be able to make Tae-joon and Minister Yoon stand in court before his time is up.
Yeon-jin’s concern is that it would be suicide for him, which Jung-hwan realizes all too well—but in making himself a (slightly less literal) suicide bomber, he won’t go down alone. After all, he’s not just anyone, he’s Prosecutor of the Month.
Jung-hwan gives Ha-kyung an insurance endowment for Ye-rin’s education to go on in the country, giving Ha-kyung the chance she wanted to challenge the status quo mandating that success comes from studying abroad.
She knows how fishy it is for Jung-hwan to give in on anything, and questions his reasoning behind that and him giving her an expensive apartment in Gangnam. He bails before the questions get too serious.
Cue Jung-hwan’s slo-mo strut into the National Assembly Hall. Kang-jae tells Tae-joon that Jung-hwan took all the Ocean Capital documents with him, and that he’ll attempt to expedite the independent counsel process by narrowing their focus down to him and Minister Yoon.
Tae-joon takes very seriously, and scrambles to call Jung-hwan just before he enters the meeting room: “If you open that door, you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison.”
“I will die in prison, Prosecutor General,” Jung-hwan replies knowingly. “My wish is for you to have a long and healthy life… in prison.”
How do you win against a man with nothing to lose when you have everything and more to lose? Tae-joon may not be a spring chicken, but Jung-hwan isn’t just threatening his job title or his income level—he can actually take the natural amount of time Tae-joon still has left and make it into a living hell. Any normal person would be very, very afraid.
At the same time, I was kind of hoping that Tae-joon would say something that’d get Jung-hwan away from the door, if only because I like Jung-hwan too much now (I know, right?) to see him die in a prison cell ten episodes from now. And because it seems highly unlikely that they’d shove the hero in a room for half the series, I’m left wondering how Jung-hwan will get out of this one.
Because while the show is much too clever to have written itself into an actual corner, it is clever enough to make us worry that it has. And admittedly, the ticking time bomb in Jung-hwan’s mind never really registered at first—maybe because he was so despicable, maybe because we didn’t know him well enough—but it’s something I’ve become more conscious of in recent weeks. His awareness is what hasn’t actually changed much since the botched surgery attempt, and even Ha-kyung saw that he hasn’t really changed his stripes overnight either.
So what is it that changed? Our perception of Jung-hwan, Jung-hwan himself, or a little bit of both? I’m inclined to believe the latter, since it’s the best shows that actually give the audience an arc to follow. We’ve seen all sides of the morality spectrum at play, and no one way of doing things has been heralded over another. But I do consider it a substantial victory that Jung-hwan decided to do things Ha-kyung’s way when it came to Ye-rin’s education, since he’d been so inflexible and inconsiderate of her opinions before. And going so far as to give Ha-kyung a gift? Just because?
That’s something I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see but unexpectedly loved nonetheless, since we’re seeing glimpses of the bond that once existed between Ha-kyung and Jung-hwan resurface in real time. It’s almost easy now to see flashbacks of their happily married life like we’re watching two different people, less prevalent on Ha-kyung’s end but dramatically so on his. She may be more or less the same person that married him, but something happened to Jung-hwan to turn his heart to stone. And it’s in the process of watching him try and mostly fail to chip away at it that’s somehow made him so pitifully endearing and sometimes painful to watch. Punch isn’t the kind of show where miracles seem at all possible, but now I can’t stop myself from hoping, even if it means more heartbreak down the road.